Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Coming To U.S.: Report (Compliance Car Watch)

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It's hard to miss a Mercedes-Benz compact hatchback when it's wrapped in a shiny blue-chrome finish.

That was the attention-grabbing color the luxury German maker used at the recent Paris Auto Show to distinguish its two electric models, the 2014 SLS AMG Electric Drive all-electric supercar and the new B Class Electric Drive concept.

The all-electric compact hatchback comes with a powertrain designed and built by Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], and the version shown in Paris is very close to the production car that'll go on sale in Europe next year, probably as a 2014 model.

It'll be offered in the U.S. market too, though prices and regional availability haven't yet been discussed by Mercedes-Benz.

Car and Driver reports that the all-electric model will be the only version of the Mercedes-Benz B Class to be offered in the U.S.--though other models built on its platform will arrive here, with gasoline engines.

The previous-generation B Class was sold in Canada, but never in the U.S.

The "Concept B Class Electric Drive" shown in Paris used a Tesla-designed electric motor, with peak output of 100 kilowatts (134 hp) and 228 lb-ft of torque, to drive the front wheels.

The 36-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which sits inside the "sandwich floor," is also designed and built by Tesla, most likely using the same modules that go into the batteries for the 2012 Tesla Model S electric luxury sport sedan.

Tesla uses the same modules in the battery of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV as well; that electric crossover utility went on sale last month in California.

At the Paris show, Mercedes-Benz claimed a range of 125 miles for the B Class Electric Drive. That should translate to an EPA range rating of roughly 100 miles.

Regrettably, the B Class Electric Drive will only be sold in sufficient numbers to let Mercedes-Benz comply with California's zero-emission vehicle mandate.

The new electric B Class model is likely to reach the U.S. in 2014, as a 2015 model.

That's the year in which the California law expands beyond the six highest-selling carmakers in the state, so Mercedes-Benz too will then have to have its own "compliance car".

The five-door, five-seat configuration of the electric B Class should give the electric Mercedes-Benz compact a wider appeal than the little two-seat 2013 Smart Electric Drive model, whose sales will also help the company comply with the California law.

Mercedes-Benz has now replaced its previous "E Cell" label with the more understandable "Electric Drive" suffix for all its battery-electric vehicles, from the little Smart all the way up through the SLS AMG supercar.


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Comments (16)
  1. Compliance car suggests a limited production, money loosing proposition only offered in the US/California to meet local emission requirements.

    It seems illogical that Mercedes should choose to offer a vehicle that is available in Europe as well in the US only in the sort of numbers to meet Californian Emission standards, especially since it already has the Smart EV on offer to meet those. So I'll go ahead and assume that this little peace of "compliance car watch" must be seen against the background of the larger John Voelcker Tesla death watch, in which potentially substantial income from gigs for third parties spoils the general narrative.

  2. @Chris O: You make a good point, one I've heard much discussed. Given tepid Leaf sales over the last two years, though, many European manufacturers are *highly* skeptical about U.S. prospects for battery-electric vehicle sales.

    Possibly the B Class Electric Drive--and also the upcoming BMW i3--will be mostly/entirely "compliance cars" in the U.S. but serious volume entries in Europe.

    Several commentators & advocates whose knowledge and perspective I respect have made exactly that case to me. We'll see in time.

    Finally, while you've made it quite clear I have no chance of convincing you...I don't have a "Tesla death watch". I report on the good and the bad of Tesla. For the record.

  3. Sorry John, but the fact that you managed to squeeze the negative adjective "compliance car" even into the title of this Tesla related story, even though it means using the term extremely loosely indicates once again that you have no intention of reporting objectively on the "good and the bad of Tesla".

  4. @Chris: So you wouldn't have carped if I'd left out the Tesla name? Would less Tesla on GCR be more to your liking?

    Seriously, I'm baffled--and saddened--by your extreme reactivity to any story you perceive to be less than 100-percent-supportive of any-and-all-things-Tesla at all times.

    As I've said before, you can find sites that are totally pro-Tesla: all concerns, questions, and worries about the company are airbrushed or expunged.

    This is not that kind of a site.

    And if Tesla's a real carmaker with a long-term future, it will survive our coverage.

    Frankly, my dear, if calling the B Class Electric Drive a "compliance car" is a bad reflection on Tesla...then I'm Scarlett O'Hara.

  5. @ John: You know very well that this isn't about mentioning Tesla in this article, it's about always focussing (and in this case more or less inventing) a negative angle when reporting on all things Tesla.

    "Extreme reactivity': no, just interested in balanced reporting rather than some glorified death watch.

    Denying that qualifying the B Class as a mere compliance car is not negative for Tesla's chances to make money and have a future is another argument that rings less than sincere to me.

    Richard Read demonstrated the sort of balanced reporting in his piece about the Tesla Store legal problems that I would personally like to see more of in your reporting.

    Green cars are a bit of a niche in automotive reporting. It has to be your thing.

  6. @Chris: Clearly you and I will continue to have quite different points of view on this one.

    But, seriously, I struggle to grasp how simply reporting that Tesla built the pack for a compliance car reflects negatively on Tesla. As you note, it's additional income that's a part of their business plan (albeit a smallish one that won't make or break the company).

  7. I have always liked the b-class models (I see them when I visit family overseas), and I am very interested in seeing this model up-close. Of course, the cost and availability will make or break the deal, but it looks interesting.

  8. I think the distinction of "compliance car" is an important one. Assigning the moniker to cars that appear to be issued only to satisfy the rulemakers is mavenry of sorts. It says, "We are watching you (Ford, Mercedes, Honda, etc.)and we won't be fooled into thinking you are committed to changing the status quo in automotive transportation."

  9. Chris O, not sure why you are harping on John like that but it's unwarranted in this article and all the articles I've read about Tesla. Tesla is going to do well no matter what John or GCR say about it but I haven't seen a bias either way on the many GCR articles concerning Tesla. Regardless, Tesla is great and is doing great and has a bright future.

  10. John, you are wrong with your assumption that this 5-door, 5 person capability of this B class EV will give it a "wider appeal" then the 2 door Smart EV. Reasons:
    1) B class merc ev will compete against most all other budget evs which are 5-door, 5-person capable evs of similar size, power, etc. like the Leaf, Focus EV, i-miev, Fit EV, etc.
    2) Cost of this B class, lease or purchase, is likely to be 30% or higher then its competition mentioned above.
    3) As you correctly presumed in the article, it is a compliance car and therefore Merc will not produce more than a few thousand..if that.
    4) Smart EV has evolved w/ more pep, range, and features for only $25K. Smart EV will likely outsell this B class EV at least 3 to 1 in 2014 n 2015

  11. @Erik: I'd separate consumer appeal from sales numbers. Assuming the B Class Electric Drive *is* a compliance car, its sales will be a specific number to meet CARB Zev & no higher--which says nothing about consumer appeal.

    Your points about the new Smart Electric are well taken, but we don't know performance for the B Class yet, so we can't compare. Tesla certainly built a fast, peppy powertrain for the RAV4 EV (see video here: and may do the same for the B Class.

    More importantly, most U.S. buyers summarily reject two-seat cars, which have never been more than about 1% of our market.

  12. You're generalizing too much again John. The 2013 Smart EV is the first good two door ev available and will likely be the least expensive ev period. It will dominant the small, but growing because of the Smart EV, market of two door evs exactly because it is the only one...only ev you can get as a convertible too. These two niche markets are enough to make the Smart EV sell well for the next two years at least. My guess is the Smart EV can be the number 2 selling budget EV behind the Leaf for the next few years....assuming Smart is not looking at the Smart EV strictly as a compliance car but actually trying to sell 5 figure volumes year after year.

    B class ev will have similar power/range as other 2015 small, 5-door hatch evs.

  13. I understand "compliance car" but I wonder if it really matters. No large multinational car company is going to enter into the BEV market with a non-comply-ing car. Does that mean they would choose to stay out of the market if such a regulatory environment did not exist? I like the FFE partly because it is a "normal" and since there is not a market for a $40k compact in the US I accept that a "clean sheet" approach isn't happening anytime soon.

  14. @Jason: Well, no large multinational car company other than, say, Nissan and Mitsubishi ....

  15. Let me see if I get what you're saying, "compliance cars" are compromise cars because they would not be introduced into the market without California law and are hobbled by being based on ICE versions of previously engineered vehicles. But the Leaf and Mitsu are BEV's that got designed and built purely on engineering and customer merit? I guess even if all that is true it wouldn't in and of itself prevent the Ford from being a better BEV. Not saying that it is, but it's the one I decided to buy because it seems the most car-like and it's range is adequate for my needs.

  16. I was wondering if the car has safety NHSTA standard?

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